Many people have a tight feeling in their throat when they start with singing, especially when it gets higher. This doesn’t feel nice and it gives the idea that singing (high) has to be hard. In this blog I will explain where this feeling comes from. I won’t explain how to solve it because those differs from person to person, but I will give some useful points of attention.
When you sing, many muscles work together to produce a sound. In trained voices, the use of the muscles is optimized, but with beginners, the muscles can be in each other’s way of producing a free sound. Here I will explain the most common tensions that can make a throat and a sound tight. I won’t specify all the muscles but use body parts that cause it instead.
The jaw is one of the main throat tighteners when it’s very tense. Just clench your teeth for a moment and put your hand on your throat to feel the tension. Unfortunately, this jaw-clenching is also something that happens when you get nervous, which again if something that happens when there is a high note coming: ” Oh no, it won’t come.” So when you sing, try to keep the jaw relaxed. You can take a stupid face before starting. Try at least to notice when you clench.
Yes, the tongue is very able to make your throat tight. But don’t worry, it’s also flexible, and when positioned right, it can also help you. What often happens, is that the tongue pulls back and then it presses on the larynx, which is pushed down. You can try it yourself: make or fake a big yawn and keep your hand on your throat. Do you feel the larynx pressed to the bottom? Now make a sound. How does it feel? Exactly, tight. Another important thing you learned now is that a yawn is not necessarily a good image for singing. It relaxes the jaw but tightens the tongue. This can also happen with the stupid face, so when you use both images always pay attention that your tongue doesn’t fall back. For the yawn, you can use the ‘start of the yawn’.
When we go up in pitch, our head often wants to join us in looking up. When we go down for the deep notes, it pulls down and back. When we read our sheet music it tilts to the front. All of these things aren’t beneficial for your singing. The next time you sing, try to feel if you’re head is in one of those places when you feel tight. Then straighten your back, relax your shoulders and place your head straight. This should help you.
With a tight breath, I mean that the abdominals are all so tense that your breath almost can’t flow out. This results in a lot of pressure of air below the larynx and again, you have a tight throat. I don’t say you should completely relax your abdominals, but flexibility is needed to keep the air flow freely through the open throat.
If you now discovered that your doing all of the 4 points in some gradation during singing, don’t feel bad. You’re not unnatural singing in this tight way. All of the things I said above are natural reactions of our body on nerves, fear and tension. These reactions unfortunately just aren’t useful for singing. But they make it hard to relax the jaw on a high pitch because the pitch is feared before it sounds. Please, pretend now to see something shocking and hold your shock. When I do that my fists clench, my abdominals tense, my head goes up, my jaw clenches and my tongue falls back. In singing you have to work against this reaction on some degree.
This doesn’t mean that when you feel your throat tightened, you are always very nervous. It means that there are some built-in habits at work that you need to change through continuous exercises and preferably vocal lessons with a good teacher so you will get the right feedback. In this way the tight feeling will gradually decrease. I hope that this blog gave you a starting point of where to look for making your singing feel nicer.
Boukje always wants to help you to find your ways to sing better.